Arthur Stanley "Stan" Jefferson (
16 June 1890 – 23
February 1965), known as Stan Laurel, was
an English comic actor, writer and film director, famous as the first half of
the comedy team Laurel and Hardy. His film acting career stretched between 1917
and 1951 and included a starring role in the Academy Award winning film The
Music Box (1932). In 1961, was given a Lifetime Achievement Academy Award for his pioneering
work in comedy. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at Laurel 7021 Hollywood Blvd.
Arthur Stanley Jefferson was born in his grandparents' house on
16 June 1890 at 3 Argyle Street,
Ulverston, then in Lancashire. He had two brothers and a sister.
His parents, Arthur and Margaret Jefferson, were both active in the theatre and always very busy. In his early years, he spent much time living with his grandmother Sarah Metcalfe. Stan Jefferson attended school at King James I Grammar School, Bishop Auckland,
King's School, County Durham Tynemouth, before moving with his parents to , where he
completed his education at Glasgow . His father managed Rutherglen Academy 's Metropole Theatre where he began work. At the age of 16, with a
natural affinity for the theatre, Glasgow Jefferson gave his first professional performance on stage at the Panopticon
in . Glasgow
Laurel and Hardy
Laurel went on to join the Hal Roach studio, and began directing films, including a 1926 production called Yes, Yes, Nanette. He intended to work primarily as a writer and director, but fate stepped in. In 1927, Oliver Hardy, another member of the Hal Roach Studios Comedy All Star players, was injured in a kitchen mishap and
was asked to
return to acting. Laurel and Hardy began sharing the screen in Slipping Wives,
Duck Soup and With Love and Hisses. The two became friends and their comic
chemistry soon became obvious. Roach Studios' supervising director Leo McCarey
noticed the audience reaction to them and began teaming them, leading to the
creation of the Laurel and Hardy series later that year. Laurel
Composed of thin Englishman Stan
American Oliver Hardy (1892–1957), they became well known during the late 1920s
to the mid-1940s for their slapstick comedy, with Laurel playing the
clumsy and childlike friend of the pompous Hardy. They made over 100 films together, initially
two-reelers (short films) before expanding into feature length films in the
1930s. Their films include Sons of the Desert (1933), the Academy Award winning
short film The Music Box (1932), Babes in Toyland (1934), and Way Out West
(1937). Hardy's catchphrase "Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten
me into!" is still widely recognized. Laurel
The pair remained with the Roach studio until 1940, then appeared in eight "B" comedies for 20th Century Fox and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer from 1941 to 1945. After finishing their movie commitments at the end of 1944, they concentrated on stage shows, embarking on a music hall tour of England, Ireland, and Scotland. In 1950 they made their last film, a French/Italian co-production called Atoll K, before retiring from the screen. In total they appeared together in 107 films. They starred in 40 short sound films, 32 short silent films and 23 full-length feature films, and made 12 guest or cameo appearances, including the recently discovered Galaxy of Stars promotional film (1936).
In May 1954, Oliver Hardy had a heart attack and canceled the tour. In 1955, they were planning to do a television series, Laurel and Hardy's Fabulous Fables, based on children's stories, but the plans were delayed after Laurel suffered a stroke on 25 April, from which he recovered. But as he was planning to get back to work, Oliver Hardy had a massive stroke on 14 September 1956. Paralyzed and bedridden for several months, Hardy was unable to speak or move.
On 7 August 1957, Oliver Hardy died. Laurel was too ill to attend his funeral, stating, "Babe would understand". People who knew Laurel said he was devastated by Hardy's death and never fully recovered from it, refusing to perform ever again.
Laurel was a heavy smoker until suddenly quitting around 1960. In January 1965, he underwent a series of x-rays for an infection on the roof of his mouth. He died on 23 February 1965, aged 74, four days after suffering a heart attack on 19 February. Just minutes away from death, Laurel told his nurse he would not mind going skiing right at that very moment. Somewhat taken aback, the nurse replied that she was not aware that he was a skier. "I'm not," said Laurel, "I'd rather be doing that than this!" A few minutes later the nurse looked in on him again and found that he had died quietly.
At his funeral, silent screen comedian Buster Keaton was overheard giving his assessment of the comedian's considerable talent: "Chaplin wasn't the funniest, I wasn't the funniest, this man was the funniest."
Laurel had written his own epitaph: "If anyone at my funeral has a long face, I'll never speak to him again." A similar statement was later found: "If anyone cries at my funeral, I will never speak to him again."